Five firefighters were injured in a fire that destroyed four three-story multi-family homes in a Waterbury neighborhood on Wednesday night and displaced 32 people.
Flames tore through home after home on Lounsbury Street just before 7 p.m. Wednesday as Waterbury firefighters and crews from surrounding towns poured thousands of gallons of water on the structures. Despite all those efforts, Waterbury Fire Chief David Martin said, the four buildings are a total loss. Three of the buildings will be torn down Thursday.
Martin said it appears up to 20 families will be displaced. One of those families is Corey and his 9-year-old and 3-year-old daughters. Corey said they just moved into the second floor of one of the homes and don’t have renters' insurance.
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"I was in the house and the house next door caught on fire. I had my daughters in there, and I grabbed them and I got out," said Corey, who did not want to give his last name. "By the time I got outside, the whole roof was on fire, and within minutes, the whole thing was on fire. So we barely made it out."
The fire chief said it appears everyone who lived in the four buildings managed to escape but that they were not able to enter the homes to do a thorough check late Wednesday night.
Martin said three of the homes were already fully involved when they arrived just after 7 p.m. He said the home in the middle caught fire first and then spread to both houses next door before embers lit the house across the street on fire.
"During the course of setup, some of the embers and burning debris flew across the street and started another three-family wood frame on fire," Martin said.
While fighting the fire, four firefighters were rushed to the hospital, Martin said. It appears the injuries were caused by exertion and exhaustion.
"Three (firefighters suffered) smoke issues, one with cardiac issue," Martin said. "Certainly the heat for the four in the hospital, three if not all four, were probably a product of the heat."
Another firefighter suffered a hand injury.
Two firefighters were kept overnight for observation and are expected to be OK.
In addition to that, Martin said gaining access to the fires was tricky, and it also quickly became clear there was too much fire and not enough water.
"We also had a little issue given the fact that we had four separate structure fires. We had water supply issues, and that hindered our ability to get them down there as quickly as we would have liked," said Martin.
On a neighboring street, dozens stood outside after being forced to evacuate. Many stood there praying their homes wouldn't be next.
"That house went up quick, the first house. And then the second house. That's when I started screaming," said neighbor Alma Jones.
As the buildings crackled and burned, leaving only empty shells behind, those who live in the affected homes could only stand there and watch.
"All my stuff is gone. Everything. Everything's gone," said Corey.
No cause has been given at this time. The fire remains under investigation.